My friend Erica and her daughter, Isabelle in Hawaii. Mele Kalikimaka!
Mark, Mr. Popularity, tools around town in the yellow mini left to him by his recently deceased father; his new girlfriend Stacey can’t believe her luck, but doesn’t understand Mark’s odd need to disappear into the woods from time to time; her former friends Mary and Annabelle try to find their place in the world – shy Mary transforms into a concert pianist and Annabelle into an world-changing activist with the idealistic and adoring Christopher by her side. In the background, the teens’ parents struggle with their desire to protect their children, yet give them room to grow into the adults they must become. Each voice tells his or her story in powerful free verse.
I read this book in a single day, very unusual for me. With few words, Lori Weber paints a picture of changing friendships, and how reality can be ever so different than the fantasy. I particularly enjoyed the plot twists. The characters are beautifully drawn, each one lovable despite his or her flaws. This is a powerful and uplifting story.
Nominated for the QWF Literary Award!
My debut YA, My Invented Life, centers around big SECRET that drives a wedge between sisters that used to be close. The secret has to do with sexual identity. When the book hit the stores, interviewers often asked me what inspired me to write it.
This question always made me squirm. The easy answer would’ve been, “I wish that funny, uplifting stories with lesbian an bi girls existed back when I was a teen.” Unfortunately that would’ve been a lie. I am not lesbian or bi. I don’t have any LGBT family members. Nor LGBT friends in HS. The challenges of growing up gay did not occur to me until much later. I’m that lame.
In fact, my biggest post-pub fear went something like this: LGBT readers and authors would scoff at my lack of “credentials,” laugh in my face, call me a fraud, or much worse. (False alarm, btw. I learned later that people like me are called allies. I felt very appreciated by the LGBT community.)
Luckily, the interviews were written, so I had time to develop cogent answers.
Reason A: I was inspired by events around my high school reunion. A number of my classmates came out around then. I asked a few about their experience in HS, and was somewhat horrified by their answers.
Reason B: I wanted to write an uplifting story that focused on a friendship between sisters, and how a secret can ruin a friendship. I didn’t want the “coming out” itself to be traumatic.
However, the biggest reason didn’t occur to me until after the book got published. Here it is: I can identify with the pain of LGBT teens that hide their true selves from friends because I grew up in the same situation.
My mom died when I was five. She didn’t die in a car wreck, of cancer, or in any tragic, yet socially acceptable way. She killed herself. My Dad insisted that my sister and I keep it a secret. I mostly did. But the secret made me feel ashamed. Dark. Dishonest. Disconnected. Fringe.
And that is why I believe in telling the truth, even if it makes others uncomfortable. Some day, I hope to live in a world where we aren’t afraid that others might judge us for who we really are.
Have you ever wondered what happens when a writer models a character in her bestselling novel on a family member? I’d imagine it goes something like this:
Yeah, Dad, you’re right. The dad in my book flies model airplanes like you do, has a mustache that twirls up at the ends like yours, and trekked across Tibet in his youth like you did, but my fictional dad is a jerk, which you are NOT. He totally isn’t you, okay?
I wrote about this today at YA Outside the Lines. You can read the whole post here.
I asked a Maria, a fabulous librarian blogger, to write a guest post about her favorite contemporary YA novels. Read on!
Reading contemporary fiction is a fairly recent thing for me; my reading has always skewed towards fantasy, except for my great love of the Baby-Sitters Club and Judy Blume books. But, there are only so many books about vampires, werewolves and other assorted paranormal creatures a person can read before they need a break. Contemporary fiction is the perfect antidote to what I like to call “paranormal overload.” All of the books on this list were published in the past three years and can be easily found at your local bookstore or library.
A very recent favorite is Audrey, Wait! by Robin Benway, in which Audrey breaks up with her boyfriend, he writes a song about their breakup, that song rockets up the charts as it becomes super popular. It’s ultimately about the fallout of sudden fame and what happens to Audrey, her friends and family. Filled with music and extremely funny moments, it was hard to put down. I found myself wanting to jump into the book just so I could be friends with Audrey, James, Jonah and Victoria. Audrey, Wait! is just such a fun book; I dare you not to smile at least once while reading.
For a double dose of music, I would pair Audrey, Wait! with Struts and Frets by Jon Skovron. A much more quiet book than Audrey, Wait!, Jon Skovron still packs a punch with Sammy, Jen5 and the stress of rehearsing for the “Battle of the Bands.” Throw in a grandfather-grandson relationship and the hope that a friendship could be more, and you’ve got a great, funny yet poignant story. I wonder what would happen if Audrey and Sammy ever met.
Who resist the call of a trip to the beach? Especially during the summer and when it comes with a pair of brothers like Conrad and Jeremiah Fisher. The Summer Trilogy by Jenny Han (The Summer I Turned Pretty, It’s Not Summer Without You, We’ll Always Have Summer) is Belly’s story, from awkward little sister with a huge crush on Conrad to something more. What I love about these books is that Belly is instantly relatable, she could easily be your sister or best friend, someone you could giggle over guys with, just don’t go after Conrad or Jeremiah and everything will be great. Jenny Han has created such great characters, that it’s so easy to imagine that you’re at Cousins Beach with them. I’ve included the third book here, even though I haven’t read it, because I can’t imagine that it would be any less wonderful than the first two.
Another book that’s set, at least in part, at the beach is Twenty Boy Summer by Sarah Ockler. This time the reader travels to Zanzibar Bay, California with Anna and her best friend Frankie. Both of them are grieving the sudden death of Frankie’s brother Matt. What Frankie doesn’t know is that Anna and Matt had started dating before he died. Twenty Boy Summer is an emotional roller coaster of a book, it tore at my heart in a way no book has done before. I wanted to hug Anna several times as I was reading and I wanted to tell Frankie to grow up, plus I cried – several times. A book that elicits those types of reactions from a reader needs to be shared.
This list wouldn’t be complete without at least one John Green book. In my opinion he is the king of contemporary YA. And while I’ve liked all of the John Green books I’ve read, Looking for Alaska holds a special place because it was my first John Green experience. Set at a boarding school, it’s the story of Miles who is looking for the “Great Perhaps.” At his new school, Miles finds friends for the first time and meets Alaska Young, who will change his life in ways he never thought possible. I love that anyone who reads Looking for Alaska can put themselves in Miles’ place. He’s a character that a lot of people can relate to. The key to this book is that John Green knows how to write characters that are so real it feels like you could meet any one of them in your own life. I would pair his books with books by Maureen Johnson, Rachel Cohn, Elizabeth Scott and Jessica Warman.
I’m sure there are lots of authors and books that I forgot to mention. So, what are some of your favorite contemporary reads?
For more great reviews, visit Maria’s blog, The Serpentine Library.
I wanted to pass along this excellent opportunity to submit your poetry, short fiction, or pages from a novel, and win amazing prizes.
Author Stephanie Dray is sponsoring the Cleopatra Literary Contest for young women aged 14-22. The deadline is March 1st.
Read about the details at her contest page.
Sometimes I stay up hours past my bedtime reading a book to find out what happens next. Other times, I just stare at the book on my nightstand, hoping it will read itself.
What makes one book a page-turner, and another not so much? It’s a mystery.
Not entirely, though. I zoom through books when I care about the main character, the writing style engages me, and the story is intriguing. That’s where good plotting comes in. I usually plot by the seat of my pants. Outlining stifles my creativity. I dread writing scenes that are mapped out ahead of time. Still, this method requires a lot of rewriting. So I’ve investigated techniques for plotting that don’t require outlines. One method in particular speaks to me–make a list of the heart clutching moments (HCMs) in your story, and then connect the dots.
You can read the article about HCMs at Writers’ Digest here.
Plus, I’ve read many excellent books on the topic, such as Plot & Structure by James Scott Bell
But I haven’t changed my evil ways entirely. Author, Cheryl Renee Herbsman (Breathing, Penguin 2009) captures my feelings exactly in this funny post called When Craft Attacks.
Talented, sweet, and down to earth YA author L.K. Madigan has recently announced some heart-breaking news. You can read about it in her own words here.
The Feast of Awesome will give away EIGHTY copies her books …
the Morris Award winning FLASH BURNOUT and
the amazing THE MERMAID’S MIRROR
To win a set, visit the Feast of Awesome and leave a comment.
This is a major celebration of Lisa and her talent!! Please join in.